Malamalama aga o le kanesa: You and your colon
Here's a fun fact: more than 400 types of bacteria totaling two to four pounds live in your colon. The colon is an organ about six feet long and could be considered the "plumbing system" for the human body. The processing of the food you eat begins in the stomach where enzymes unlock the nutrients in food, breaking down the proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
These digestive enzymes break down foods and move them to the small intestine which absorbs nutrients for use by the body before transferring them to the colon, which removes water from the waste before emptying it through the rectum. In the process of absorbing water from the waste the colon may also absorb harmful bacteria and other material. The longer this waste sits in the colon the greater the chance of this waste being absorbed into the walls of the colon, and then into the bloodstream.
In order to fight the bad bacteria, a healthy colon contains trillions of good bacteria which fight bad bacteria and help digestion as well as make vitamins B and K. A healthy colon also supports a strong immune system that fights infection and inflammation of internal organs.
As people age or experience stressful situations, their bodies produce fewer enzymes and good bacteria. This will result in excess gas, heartburn, bloating, bad breath and abdominal pain. The first step towards ensuring your digestive system is working properly and your colon is healthy is to eat foods which provide enzymes that help digestion.
Papaya is an excellent source of enzymes that help break down proteins. Pineapple is another wonderful fruit for digestion, because it contains bromelain, an enzyme that benefits overall digestion.
Eating these fruits with a meal or afterwards will help the body digest other foods, particularly proteins. Eating a low-fat yogurt will also add good bacteria to your digestive system. Research shows that a healthy diet will promote good digestion, which in turn supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon and gastrointestinal system enabling these organs to maintain a healthy balance of microbes which fight infection and disease. Having a healthy digestive system and colon therefore also reduces the risk of colon and stomach cancers.
Problems in the colon will develop as constipation, diarrhea and blood in the stool.
A single instance of diarrhea can flush out all of the good bacteria in the colon leaving the body vulnerable to infection.
Eating fiber is the next step: ‘bulk’ up your digestive system and give your body a chance to grow good bacteria after having diarrhea or simply increase your fiber intake to ensure what you eat is flowing through the digestive system properly.
Eating high fiber foods like whole grain products (bread, muffin, bagel), whole wheat pasta (sold at Cost U Less), brown rice, barley, dried fruits, avocado, oranges, mango, spinach, kidney and garbanzo beans, broccoli, peas, leafy vegetables, and nuts will help move food through the colon and lower cholesterol.
Garlic is another good food to help cleanse the colon of bad bacteria. To compare packaged foods to determine which ones provide the greatest amount of fiber or lowest calories or other food facts try this web tool: http://www.healthcastle.com/product-review.shtml or simply Google Go UnDiet: Packaged Food Review (HealthCastle.com 2009).
Eating lots of fruits, especially papaya and pineapple— which are plentiful and delicious here in American Samoa—as well as other fresh fruits and vegetables, will help children develop a strong digestive system as well as healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.
Research shows that children who do not eat fruits and vegetables have unhealthy diets filled with high fat foods that are low in fiber. The latest fiber recommendation for kids is that they should eat at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they eat. That’s a lot of fiber when you consider a small bag of cheese Doritos contains only 1 gram of fiber!
A food considered to be a ‘good source of fiber’ will contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Probably the most attractive foods for kids would be Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheat Cereal and All-Bran Cereal (add fruits and honey to sweeten it up), Asian Pears, raspberries, baked beans, spaghetti and meatballs, raisins, and General Mills Total Raisin Bran cereal.
Foods with two to four grams of fiber per serving, and better alternatives to junk food, include strawberries (frozen are fine), corn, carrots, brown rice, potatoes, Cheerios, oatmeal, graham crackers, oranges and apples (with skin).
Granola bars and oatmeal cookies have more sugar and fat than fiber to be beneficial. They are healthier alternatives to candy and chips, but better choices can be made. A fiber diet also requires a lot of water. Water—not soda, milk or juice— helps move foods through the digestive system.
Every day we are exposed to thousands of bacteria and germs. Whether or not we get sick from them depends on how healthy our immune system is to fend off those germs. A healthy immune system begins in the digestive system and the colon. Papaya, pineapple, fiber, and water . . . make sure you get lots of these items to keep your system healthy.
Frequent colds, a chronic infection, autoimmune diseases or allergies, frequent stomach aches and bouts of diarrhea are symptoms of an unbalanced digestive system and unhealthy colon.
Blood in the stool is a warning sign that, assuming you do not have hemorrhoids, there is a major problem that needs to be looked at by a doctor. The colon is more than the plumbing system for our body. It is a critical organ that cleanses the body of waste and harbors healthy disease fighting bacteria.
A COLON TEST THAT CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE- THE FOBT
If you are 50 years old, or older, the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society recommend that you perform a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) once every year after seeing your doctor or a provider at the LBJ Primary Clinic. It is a simple, take home test that you can do in the privacy of your own bathroom.
After taking one stool sample for each of three days you will return the samples to the LBJ lab for processing. The samples must be returned within the time period given. This test will determine whether or not you have blood in your stool, and if you should perform further tests. The process of taking the stool samples and returning them to the hospital is much less embarrassing, painful, and inconvenient than having colon or stomach cancers. It is a test that could save your life.
Call the Primary Clinic today at 633-1222 to make an appointment to see a doctor, get information, and take home an FOBT kit. Make sure to inform your doctor of any stomach, abdominal, rectal pain you may be experiencing. Eat your papaya and pineapple, drink lots of water, and exercise!
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